CSI Construction

CSI ConstructionCSI Construction diversifies its portfolio and strengthens its presence in western states as it marks its 40th anniversary.

By Tim O’Connor

One of the best signs that a company excels at its job is when its customers want to work with it again. By that measure, Colorado’s CSI Construction is among the tops in the industry. Ninety percent of the company’s work is for repeat clients.

“We really emphasize trying to build a team relationship with the developer or clients, letting them know they are our first priority,” Senior Project Manager Gary Kiger says.

The relationship-building process starts with giving clients a single point of contact for all of their current and future projects, providing a consistent experience across multiple markets. With offices located in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Portland, Ore.; Irvine, Calif.; and Sacramento, Calif., CSI’s project managers can manage jobs located in 19 western states, including Hawaii and Alaska.

The 40-year-old firm’s regional presence is an advantage for clients that build similar projects across several markets. For example, CSI is building a Wingate hotel in Denver and is preparing to construct a comparable project in Seattle. Because both projects share the same point of contact, instead of starting from scratch, CSI can carry over the resources, systems and processed used by its Colorado Springs office to its Portland location, which will manage the construction of the Wingate in Seattle.

That kind of resource sharing is common within CSI and ultimately saves the client time and money. “There’s probably 10 to 15 different clients we’re doing the same work for,” Kiger says.

Market Transition

Since its founding in 1978, CSI has been primarily known as a commercial builder. The company has worked with major retailers such as Walmart, Lowes, Best Buy, Sam’s Club and Bed Bath & Beyond to build hundreds of stores in the western states during the past 40 years.

However, as the shift toward online shopping gained steam in the late-2000s, the opportunity for new brick-and-mortar retail construction began to dwindle. CSI realized it needed to expand its portfolio to continue its growth. “With the market change in 2008 to 2009, it made us diversify into other sectors of construction,” President Gabe Godwin says. CSI Construction

In the past decade, the company has taken on new types of projects. Colorado is the one of the fastest-growing states, adding nearly 600,000 people between 2010 and 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That growth has sparked a housing boom across the state, providing CSI with an opportunity to enter the multifamily and assisted-living markets. Additionally, the company is now managing more office and industrial construction projects.

Recent projects include Kent Place Residences, a $71 million, 300-unit multifamily development in Englewood, Colo.; Village at the Peaks, a $35 million community-focused outdoor mall in Longmont, Colo.; and ECO Urban Apartments, a 160-unit complex with four stories of wood-framed residential sitting on top of a two-story concrete parking structure – a first of its kind project for Downtown Colorado Springs.

Ideally, Godwin says CSI would split its activity evenly into thirds among multifamily, retail and office/industrial projects. However, increased housing demand has actually tipped the workload more toward multifamily, which now makes up about 40 percent of CSI’s projects, with retail representing another 40 percent and office/industrial the remainder. Although it hasn’t quite achieved the ideal balance, the breakdown demonstrates CSI’s ability to adapt and change with the markets, one of the key skills that has kept the company in business for 40 years.

Godwin credits CSI’s transformation into a diverse general contractor to the work of its longtime employees. “We have a lot of people that are 15 to 20 years-plus with CSI,” he notes. Keeping its core group of talent intact has been a priority over the years, even through the lean periods.

When the recession struck in 2007, CSI, like many contractors, had to downsize its workforce; however, it was able to retain its tenured employees by taking on more work from the development arm of its parent company. “When the retail market really crashed they had some of their own projects we were able to use to keep busy,” Senior Project Executive Christopher Phelan says.

Having a sister business focused on development means that CSI can offer development services to clients that don’t already have a property picked out or need their building designed. In recent years, CSI has provided both development and general contracting services for a Qdoba franchisor and Pikes Peak Athletics, an aquatic center in Colorado Spring. “We’re basically a full-service operation for people looking to start a business that don’t have the development experience,” Phelan says.

Growing Presence

With so many construction opportunities, CSI is considering opening new offices on the north side of Denver and in Phoenix, two of the fastest-growing markets in the country. The additions would not be intended to increase the company’s territory, but rather to strengthen its work in the West. “We’re doing work all over those areas,” Godwin says. “It’s just having a bigger presence.”

Adding offices is only one part of building a strong market presence. CSI  depends on support from its base of subcontractors. Like many general contractors that work across multiple markets, CSI used to hire subs  for individual jobs and hire a new group for every project. That approach changed as the construction market picked up and subs that had been scrapping for work during the Great Recession suddenly found themselves juggling jobs. “As we became more based and rooted in the Colorado area, we realized we had to build relationships with these subs,” Phelan states.

Now, CSI doesn’t even bid out its subcontracted work on some projects. Instead, it reaches out to a trusted pool of subcontractors and brings those companies in during pre-construction to help it develop budgets. “With the current market, savvy developers understand to get the best price for their product is to engage with the subs and general contractors early,” Godwin explains.

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